What Can You Plant in Spring? A Guide to the Best Spring Crops

I’ve gotten lots of questions regarding gardening and how to begin growing food. I’ve been gardening for years, but I haven’t written or made a video about it because I don’t think I’m good enough to share. By no means am I an expert. I’ve learned more from doing things myself and from watching my mom garden when I was a kid. I don’t have any tried-and-true resources to recommend; I just want to tell you to do it! You can read all the books and watch all the YouTube videos, but you won’t know how it will work until you do it. Books and other resources are useful and important, but I think that trial and error is the best way to learn how to garden.

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After a long winter, spring is finally here and gardeners are itching to get growing again But what should you plant during this transitional season? While it may still be too cold for summer favorites like tomatoes and peppers, there are plenty of tasty vegetables and herbs that thrive in the cooler temperatures of spring.

In this guide we’ll go over the top spring vegetable garden plants along with the best time to start seeds or set transplants in the ground. With proper planning and preparation, you can fill your garden with bountiful spring harvests.

When to Plant a Spring Garden

Spring planting times vary depending on your growing zone and last frost date. Generally, early to mid-spring is best for cold hardy crops that can withstand lingering frosty nights. Late spring planting is ideal for heat-loving crops once the soil has warmed and all danger of frost has passed.

Here’s a helpful spring planting timeline for common vegetable crops:

Early Spring (March-April)

  • Peas
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce/Greens
  • Radishes
  • Potatoes
  • Onions/Leeks
  • Broccoli/Cabbage
  • Carrots

Mid Spring (April-May)

  • Beets
  • Kale
  • Swiss Chard
  • Arugula
  • Cauliflower
  • Bok Choy
  • Celery

Late Spring (May)

  • Cucumbers
  • Corn
  • Beans
  • Squash
  • Cantaloupe
  • Pumpkin
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Eggplant

Check your local frost dates and adjust this timeline accordingly. You can safely plant cold-hardy crops once the ground can be worked in early spring. Wait until after your last frost to plant tender crops.

Best Cool Weather Spring Crops

Here are some of the top vegetable crops to grow for spring harvests:

1. Peas

Sweet snap peas and plump shelling peas are cool weather favorites. Direct sow seeds 1-2 inches deep in the garden 2-4 weeks before your last frost. Provide trellising for vining varieties. Harvest peas when pods plump up.

2. Spinach

Fast-growing spinach thrives in cool conditions. Sow seeds 1⁄2 inch deep, 2-3 weeks before your last frost date. Pick baby leaves for salads or let mature for full-size bunches. Bolt-resistant varieties extend the harvest.

3. Lettuce

Nothing beats homegrown spring lettuce. Sow seeds 1⁄4-1⁄2 inch deep in early to mid-spring. Favorites include butterhead, romaine, oakleaf, and looseleaf types. Protect from hard freezes with floating row cover fabric.

4. Radishes

Add some spice by planting radishes in early spring. Direct sow 1⁄2 inch deep 2-3 weeks before your last frost. Enjoy crunchy globes and long daikon types. Harvest radishes when roots size up in as little as 3-4 weeks.

5. Carrots

Plant carrot seeds 1⁄4-1⁄2 inch deep in loose soil a few weeks before your last frost date. Go for quick types like ‘Little Finger’ or ‘Mokum’ for early spring carrots. Hill heavier soils to prevent forked roots.

6. Beets

Beets prefer cooler weather and thrive planted in spring. Sow seeds 1⁄2-1 inch deep 4-5 weeks before your last frost. Enjoy both roots and vitamin-rich greens. Harvest beets when they reach your desired size.

7. Broccoli

Get a head start on broccoli by starting seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before your last frost date. Harden off and transplant into the garden a couple weeks before the expected last frost. Side dress with fertilizer when heads start forming.

8. Cabbage

Grow spring coleslaw with freshly harvested cabbage! Start seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before outdoor planting time. Harden off transplants and plant out a week or two before your last frost date.

9. Potatoes

Plant seed potatoes 4-6 weeks before your expected last frost, once soil reaches 45°F. Place whole or cut tubers 4 inches deep and 12 inches apart. Hill soil over plants as they reach 6 inches. Harvest new potatoes or let tubers fully size up.

10. Kale

Ornamental and edible kale handles cool temps with ease. Direct sow seeds 1⁄4-1⁄2 inch deep 3-4 weeks before your last frost. Or give transplants a 2 week head start indoors. Taste sweeter after a frost!

11. Onions

Maximize growth by starting onions indoors 8-10 weeks before your last frost date. Move outdoors 4 weeks before frost once bulbs pencil size. Planting longer-day onions in spring yields larger bulbs.

Best Warm Weather Spring Crops

The following vegetables require warm soil and air temperatures, making them ideal for planting in late spring after all danger of frost has passed:

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Melons
  • Squash
  • Sweet corn
  • Beans
  • Pumpkins
  • Eggplant

For these heat-lovers, either purchase transplants or start seeds indoors if you want a head start. Just be sure to harden off plants before transplanting them into the warm garden soil to avoid any cold shock. Follow seed packet planting guidelines for each specific crop.

Spring Herbs

Herb gardens also flourish when planted in spring. Many cool weather herbs will tolerate some frost, allowing you to sow seeds or plant starts weeks before your last frost date. Try growing parsley, cilantro, dill, fennel, chives, oregano, thyme and more. Wait until after the chance of frost to plant basil and other tender herbs.

Follow Best Planting Practices

To get your spring garden off to the right start, be sure to:

  • Prepare beds by mixing in compost and other organic matter
  • Test soil nutrients and pH, amend as needed
  • Use row covers to protect plants from frost
  • Water newly seeded beds frequently to keep moist
  • Allow proper spacing for each vegetable variety
  • Use trellising and cages to support vining crops
  • Apply organic fertilizer per crop guidelines

With the right crops selected for your region and proper planting techniques, you’ll be harvesting homegrown goodness all season long. Turn your spring garden dreams into reality by getting your seeds and starts in the ground on time. What will you grow this year?

Frequently Asked Questions about Spring Planting

What vegetables can handle frost/cold weather?

Some of the best frost tolerant spring vegetables include peas, spinach, lettuce, carrots, beets, cabbage, broccoli, potatoes, onions, leeks, radishes, and kale.

When should I plant my spring garden?

In early spring, plant cold hardy crops that can withstand frost and cool soil temps. In late spring, plant tender crops like tomatoes once the soil has warmed and all danger of frost has passed.

Should I start seeds indoors or direct sow?

Quick growing crops like lettuce, spinach, radishes, carrots and beets can be direct sown in the garden. Get a head start on slower growing crops like tomatoes, peppers, onions and broccoli by starting seeds indoors.

How do I know if it’s too early to plant outside?

Check your region’s average last frost date. Don’t plant tender vegetables outside until after the expected last frost. You can safely plant hardy vegetables and herbs a few weeks before the last frost since they can tolerate cooler temperatures.

What if a frost threatens my newly planted garden?

Cover tender seedlings with cloches, cold frames or frost blankets if an unexpected late frost strikes after you’ve already planted. This protects plants from freezing. Remove covers daily when the risk of frost has passed.

what to plant in spring

Spring planting is a lot different than summer planting. So far, it’s not quite tomato and corn season. Instead, it’s the time for light, cleansing foods. Unless you are far down south, in spring you want to plant quick growing frost-tolerant crops. Brassicas, like broccoli and cabbage, do best when planted in the spring, so they can get most of their growth done before the hot summer months.

Also, some plants, like chamomile, calendula, potatoes, and some flowers, can be planted in early spring to be picked in the summer. Again, this will vary according to your zone. I’m in zone 6b and this is a peek at what grows in my spring garden:

Lettuce (Red leaf, green leaf, romaine, baby)

Radishes (red, easter egg, french breakfast)

Peas (shelling and sugar snap)

Root vegetables (beets, turnips, carrots)

Herbs (Chamomile, calendula, cilantro, parsley, dill)

Garlic (planted in the autumn previous)

Perennial herbs (oregano, mint, lemon balm, catnip, etc)

Radishes, snap peas, and lettuce are some crops that can be planted early in the spring and won’t be hurt by a little cold weather. Other crops need to be planted in late spring, closer to your average last frost date. Many seed packets have exact planting times, like “plant 4-6 weeks before your average last frost date” or “start indoors 4-8 weeks before your average last frost date” or “plant as soon as the ground can be worked.” You can then do the match according to your planting zone and plan your planting from there.

You can’t plant summer crops like cucumbers and tomatoes and herbs that don’t do well in cold weather until the risk of frost has passed for the winter. In my area, that usually means Mother’s Day. If you live somewhere warmer, that might be earlier though. Quick-growing spring crops will be out by the time your summer crops need to go in.

what can you plant in spring

what can you plant in spring

Trial and error are the best garden teachers there are.

What you need to know about planting in the spring, which is very different from planting in the summer, is in this blog post. People usually get very scared when I say I want to plant in March or April and quickly tell me it’s too cold. Yeah, it is for most plants. Summer plants like peppers and tomatoes are still safe and warm inside, getting stronger until frost is no longer a threat. You can plant many cool-weather crops as soon as the ground can be worked in early spring. That’s what we’re going to talk about today!

The information here may vary depending on what zone you live in. There is a lot more spring in the north than in the south where I live. In the south, it may already be warm. I will guide you to find the best dates for planting based on where you live.

what can you plant in spring

what can you plant in spring

what can you plant in spring

When you’re ready to plant your garden, you need to know two things: your planting zone and the average last frost date for your zone. Click the buttons below to calculate yours. Once you have this information, you are ready to begin planning your spring garden!.

Keep in mind that these are just estimates. These dates are a good place to start, but as time goes on, you’ll learn more about the weather in your area and be able to better decide when to plant.

12 Vegetables You Should Grow in Spring

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